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Lovell v. SKY Chefs, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Oregon

July 22, 2015

ROY LOVELL, Plaintiff,
SKY CHEFS INC., Defendant.

Aaron W. Baker, Portland, OR 97204, Of Attorneys for Plaintiff.

Mitchell C. Baker and Alexander A. Wheatley, FISHER & PHILLIPS LLP, Portland, OR 97204, Of Attorneys for Defendant.


MICHAEL H. SIMON, District Judge.

Roy Lovell ("Plaintiff") maintains this action against Sky Chefs, Inc. ("Defendant"). Before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for wrongful termination and for attorney fees. Dkt. 7. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part.


A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim may be granted only when there is no cognizable legal theory to support the claim or when the complaint lacks sufficient factual allegations to state a facially plausible claim for relief. Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010). In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint's factual allegations, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded material facts alleged in the complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Wilson v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 668 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 2012); Daniels-Hall v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010). To be entitled to a presumption of truth, allegations in a complaint "may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively." Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). All reasonable inferences from the factual allegations must be drawn in favor of the plaintiff. Newcal Indus. v. Ikon Office Solution, 513 F.3d 1038, 1043 n.2 (9th Cir. 2008). The court need not, however, credit the plaintiff's legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).

A complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations to "plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of discovery and continued litigation." Starr, 652 F.3d at 1216. "A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)).


Plaintiff was formerly employed by Defendant. Plaintiff alleges that on July 1, 2013, Plaintiff sustained an on-the-job injury and thereafter availed himself of benefits available under Oregon workers' compensation laws. Plaintiff further alleges that, on or about July 29, 2013, Plaintiff received hernia repair surgery and was unable able to work. On August 23, 2013 Plaintiff's employment was terminated. Plaintiff alleges that his termination violated the Family and Medical Leave Act[1] and state employment law.


Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for common law wrongful discharge on the grounds that: (1) wrongful discharge is an interstitial tort only available if a claimant lacks an adequate statutory remedy; and (2) that ORS § 659A.885(3) provides the full panoply of relief available at common law, thus precluding Plaintiff from asserting a claim for wrongful discharge. Defendant also seeks attorney fees under ORS § 20.105 because, Defendant claims, Plaintiff's position cannot reasonably be supported by Oregon law. The Court addresses each argument in turn.

A. Adequate Statutory Remedy

In this case, the Court must decide the oft-raised issue of whether a plaintiff who alleges common law wrongful discharge is precluded from bringing that claim because there is an adequate statutory remedy. Defendant argues that controlling Oregon Supreme Court precedent, as interpreted by a long line of cases in this district, requires a finding that Plaintiff's claims for common law wrongful discharge are precluded. Defendant contends that the test for whether a claim for common law wrongful discharge is precluded under Oregon law is disjunctive: it requires a showing that either (1) an existing remedy adequately protects the public interest in question, or (2) the legislature has intentionally abrogated the common law remedies by establishing an exclusive remedy. See Arnold v. Pfizer, Inc., 970 F.Supp.2d 1106, 1145 (D. Or. 2013); Draper v. Astoria Sch. Dist. No. 1C, 995 F.Supp. 1122, 1130-31 (D. Or. 1998). Plaintiff contends that the appropriate test, as articulated by the Oregon Court of Appeals, is conjunctive: the Defendant must demonstrate both that the provided remedy is adequate and that the legislature intended the statute to abrogate preexisting common law remedies. See Kemp v. Masterbrand Cabinets, Inc., 257 Or.App. 530, 537-38 (2013); Olsen v. Deschutes County, 204 Or.App. 7, 14 (2006). See also Neighorn v. Quest Health Care, 870 F.Supp.2d 1069, 1106 (D. Or. 2012) (discussing cases applying the disjunctive and conjunctive tests).

Plaintiff concedes in his Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 9) that ORS § 659A.885(3) would provide an adequate statutory remedy for his claims if he had filed them within the applicable statute of limitations.[2] Pl.'s Opp'n at 3-4. Accordingly, the only relevant question for the Court is whether Oregon law requires the conjunctive test articulated by the ...

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